“In God We Trust”
Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost
October 14, 2012
First Christian Church
I will admit it: I really don’t like this passage.
Why don’t I like it? For a lot of reasons. I don’t like how people sometimes use this passage to lord over others. People who are full of themselves and like to preach against all those confortable folks in the pews with their nice houses in the suburbs. Never mind said preacher has most of the accutrments of modern society like an iPhone and/or a laptop and nice clothes. If you’re gonna go around acting like a prophet, you might want to actually try living as one.
I also don’t like this text for some opposite reasons. I don’t like how we try to soften this passage. Pastors and others try to make the text more palatable by saying that the whole camel thought the eye of a needle referred to the beast entering a smaller door fit for them. We try to say that Jesus was just testing the young man on what was keeping him from God. It might be wealth for one person, but it might be something else entirely for another person.
There is another reason I don’t like this text and it comes down to this: it’s just too personal for me. There’s a fear that this verse is speaking to me as well and if it came down to selling everything I have and giving it to the poor to follow Jesus, my response would be just like the young ruler. I’m hardly rich, by American means, but I don’t know if I could give up my car or iPad or home and follow some long-haired hippie.
This passage has the unfortunate task of holding a mirror up to us and telling us how we don’t always love God with our whole hearts. Most of us in this room stand indicted of holding on to our possessions. If you are an American, which most of us are, then we are already richer than most folks in the world. It means that we would also have a hard time giving up everything to follow Jesus.
The man who came to Jesus wasn’t a bad guy. He was wealthy and also feared God. He did all the right things. When Jesus tells him to give up his possessions, the text says that Jesus loved the man. This wasn’t some arrogant Pharisee, but a man that wonders if this is all there is. Of course, when he find out the price of eternal life, he walks away unable to make that final step.
After the man leaves, Jesus says one of the most memorable phrases: “It’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom.” This stuns the disciples because in those days, riches were considered a sign of God’s favor with you. If those who were considered good enough to enter heaven are barred from attaining heaven, then who could go?
Jesus responds in two ways. First, you should know that Jesus is making the journey to Jerusalem, towards his death. The only way we can enter heaven, is not by our riches, but through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We are made good, not because of our riches or position in life, but because of Jesus. It is only though the grace of Christ that we can enter in to God’s kingdom.
The second way Jesus responds is by calling his disciples to live a life where there are no other gods before God. We are covered by grace, but we don’t get to rest on our laurels. We are called to live sacrificial lives, just as Jesus did. Maybe we aren’t being called to sell everything and live in yurt in Mongolia, but we called by God to do something. We are called not to live life for ourselves, to not place things over people, to be generous givers of time and money. The God we serve doesn’t want just a little from us; God wants the whole shebang.
In the end this all comes down to trust. It’s funny that the phrase “In God We Trust” is printed on of all things, our currency. But the dollar doesn’t lie; we are called to trust God with our checkbooks and our very lives.
In a few months, you will be getting some letter from the church about the annual stewardship drive. Stewardship is usually viewed as giving our money to the church, but it is far more than that. Stewardship reminds us that all of our lives is a gift, that we can’t inherit eternal life except through Jesus. It reminds us that we are to live the same sacrificial life that Christ did. Stewardship reminds us that we are to give of our whole selves to God.
I want to close with one story. Something that I have noticed here at First is the importance of mission. You all take mission seriously. You may not have the time to go feed the homeless, but you know it’s important in your yearly budgeting to include Outreach as part of the budget. A lot of churches don’t do that. They budget for everything save Missions which is considered a “passthrough” based on the offerings of the moment. About $23,000 goes to missions both here in Minnesota and around the world. I’m not a money guy, but I do know that this church could do other needed things with $23K. Instead you use to feed people or give them a temporary home.
What this church does corporately is what God calls all of us to do individually. So let’s trust God, knowing we are live in God’s grace and give of ourselves, checkbook, possessions and life to the glory of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.